“Concentrate every minute like a Roman—like a man—on
doing what’s in front of you with precise and genuine
seriousness, tenderly, willingly, with justice. And on freeing
yourself from all other distractions. Yes, you can—if you do
everything as if it were the last thing you were doing in your
life, and stop being aimless, stop letting your emotions
override what your mind tells you, stop being hypocritical,
self-centered, irritable. You see how few things you have to
do to live a satisfying and reverent life? If you can manage
this, that’s all even the gods can ask of you.Meditations of Marcus Aurelius
If you have read my recent post on considering your own death to appreciate life, you know I am a fan of the stoics. Moreover I’m a fan of the interpretations of the stoics provided by Ryan Holiday on his blog Daily Stoic. He refers to the quote a lot in his daily stoic e-mails (Which I subscribe to). In the meditation above, Marcus Aurelius encourages people to concentrate “like a Roman, like a man” on the task in front of you.
What he is saying is concentrate like an upright citizen on the task in front of you. Why? Because this nation, depends on you to do so. I would take it a step further and encourage you to concentrate on this task like an American. As Edward M. Murrow put it when addressing the American people, if we dig deep into our history, into our doctrine, we remember that we are not descended from fearful men and women. He prefaced that comment by stating we “cannot be driven by fear into an age of unreason.” With the pandemic, economic instability, and upcoming election it is hard to believe that we have not been driven into an age of unreason.
I think that Chuck Palahniuk said it best when he wrote the following:
Old George Orwell got it backward.Big Brother isn’t watching. He’s singing and dancing. He’s pulling rabbits out of a hat. Big Brother’s busy holding your attention every moment you’re awake. He’s making sure you’re always distracted. He’s making sure you’re fully absorbed.He’s making sure your imagination withers. Until it’s as useful as your appendix. He’s making sure your attention is always filled.And this being fed, it’s worse than being watched. With the world always filling you, no one has to worry about what’s in your mind. With everyone’s imagination atrophied, no one will ever be a threat to the world.”Chuck Palahniuk
The beauty of our capitalist society is that it manages to reduce inefficiencies from competition in the markets. The information age has not only evolved into the rapid sharing of information. Rather it has created process to maintain and maximize attention of consumers to their own detriment. We can and we must, on a daily basis, remind ourselves that the American people are descended from the children of the world who struggled for a better world for all. I don’t believe that there is a group of people sitting in a room pulling strings of the world as they stack their billions. I do believe that every citizen has allowed themselves to become distracted from what truly matters.
This pandemic has shed light on those distractions. As the American citizen was forced to retreat to their homes in order to restrict the deadly pestilence they were granted more time to sit an reflect than ever before. The result of that reflection was the anger we see across the country that has manifested in rioting and social unrest. The unrest that swept over this country did not hit us like rapid flooding discussed in the bible as Noah built his ark. It was a slow steady drip from the faucet that we ignored day in and day out due to our own distractions. The pandemic merely turned off those distractions to make us realize we were trapped in water raising up above our heads.
We cannot change the past. We can take action on the future. It is the responsibility of the American Citizen to vow to no longer be distracted. To focus on the task in front of us like an American- a man or woman. Only then can we prevent ourselves from being driven by fear into an age of unreason.